Sunday, June 14, 2009

Running From the Law. A Guest Post By Liz O'Donnell

I'm on the lam. Running from the law. What did I do? Nothing yet -but I

You see, I am a mother and I just might cause permanent and ongoing harm to
others. So if I were someone, like let's just say, John Woodcock, Jr., U. S.
District Court Judge in the District of Maine, I'd throw the book at me.
Lock me up and throw away the key.

Last month Judge Woodcock sentenced a pregnant woman to 238 days in prison, instead of the more typical time-served sentence for her crime. Quinta Layin Tuleh, from Cameroon, was in court for having fake immigration documents. But Woodcock sentenced her for being HIV-positive and pregnant. He was quoted by the Bangor Daily News as saying, "My obligation is to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant and that public, it seems to me at this point, should likely include that child she's carrying. I don't think that the transfer of HIV to an unborn child is a crime technically under the law, but it is as direct and as likely as an ongoing assault.And so I think I have the obligation to do what I can to protect that person, when that person is born, from permanent and ongoing harm."

Woodcock's so-called reasoning was that he was protecting Tuleh's unborn child, as he felt the mother was more likely to receive medical treatment for HIV in prison than out on her own. Tuleh's attorney had arranged medical care for her at a nearby facility.

But why stop at fetuses? If Woodcock can protect an unborn baby by incarcerating the mother, why won't he protect all of the already born children too? Certainly, the prison system can do a better job caring for them than most mothers can.

Take my kids for example. They are in danger and need to be protected from me. Tomorrow, I might drive over the speed limit with them in the car on our way to the library. I might coerce them into jaywalking with me when I walk them to school. And there is a very good chance that in the near future I will feed them fast food which contributes to childhood obesity, malnutrition and an overabundance of cheap plastic toys in my living room.

So really, is it that preposterous to think that people like Woodcock might want to protect my kids from me? After all, behind bars I can't drive more than 55 miles per hour and I will be cut off from my Happy Meal supply.

Added by Echidne: For more on this story, go here.